Carmen Dell’Orefice. (with a name like that, she was bound to be famous) Born in New York in 1931, Carmen was discovered when she was 13 on a bus. (the glamour of it all) Her initial test shots did not go well but a few months later her godfather brought her into the Vogue offices and she signed a contract later that day.
Her childhood was a rough one (what a surprise) She lived with her mother, who was as she put it ‘dirt poor’. In and out of foster homes, even while modeling, because her mother was unable to support her. She often showed up to shoots so malnourished, the dresses had to be pinned on to her. Conde Nast actually paid for her to have hormone injections, to bring onher delayed puberty, which was a result of the rheumatic fever she had when she was 9, followed by a strict regime of ballet classes at the academy for the Ballet Russes. (until she broke her toe that is)
Modeling topless for Dali at age 13, posing for Cecil Beaton at 15, along with other greats such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn,with best friends such as Dorian Leigh and Suzy Parker, I have no doubt she’s had an amazing life, despite the 3 disastrous marriages and even a fall out with her own daughter. She decided to retire in the early 1960’s (which was the reason behind her 2nd divorce,whatajerk) but decided to return over than 10 years later. While the return was initially met with some reservations by Eileen Ford of Ford agency, she was eventually taken back on and soon walking the catwalk for Dior, Galliano & Westwood.
Currently 80 and still working, she is listed in the Guinness book of world records as the oldest/longest working super models. She is in fact still rather fabulous, and while I suspect some work was done to keep her that way, it isn’t terribly obvious and I’ll be delighted if I look that good at 80….
What I enjoyed about researching Carmen the most, was the energy and attitude that came across in all of her recent interviews. In every one of them she is quick witted, intelligent and positive.